From Minor League Baseball to a Minor Disappointment..Again

Exactly three weeks have passed since the last scheduled 2011 Worcester Tornadoes Regular Season Game. It was supposed to be a happy moment, perhaps offering some closure after an up-and-down summer on the diamond. Unfortunately, the Tornadoes never got the chance to end on a high note, and that rung especially true for Chris Colabello.

I won’t get whiny and play the woulda, coulda, shoulda game, but Colabello had a chance– albeit a small one– to win the Batting Triple Crown with a great day at the plate. In addition to the traditional offensive categories, he had a couple of stats to defend from the clutches of other CanAm League players, like slugging percentage and doubles. He was one off of the RBI lead, percentage points back in Batting Average and three behind in Homeruns (the last of which was behind his own teammate, Nick Salotti).

Worcester lost the first (and what turned out to be only) four games the last weekend in Quebec City against Les Capitales, the final being a rain-shortened, five-inning affair the day before the last scheduled game. The first half of that skid (in combination with a few Brockton Rox wins) eliminated the Tornadoes from playoff contention.

Both Sunday and Monday– when the 2011 campaign was tabbed to end for the Tornadoes– the sky didn’t want to cooperate. Waking up each morning brought the same reaction you’d get out of a hung over college kid one night after he rushed a fraternity. (For an entirely different reason,) It just made you want to go back to sleep. It was cloudy, foggy, misty and miserable. It’s not the type of weather that makes you want to put your glove, hat and cleats on, but when you have a chance to do something special, that can easily change.

From the actions Chris took that Sunday night and Monday morning, you could tell winning the Triple Crown would mean so much to him. With Quebec having the best nightlife of all the league’s outposts, you can guess where the other players were after Sunday’s game. I even went clubbing with them (entering a club for probably the third time in my life). The Worcester first baseman was the only player not to make it out, and it was completely by choice.

While his teammates were dancing to Duck Sauce’s “Barbara Streisand” and the other techno tunes du nuit, he was in the lobby of the Clarendon (our hotel), checking his fantasy football team and checking into his bed early.

Some players weren’t happy that Colabello didn’t make it out with his teammates, especially after learning that even the trainer and “Radio Geek” made respective appearances. Some understood though that Monday September 5, 2011 could have been the most glorious individual baseball achievement in one of their teammates’ lives.

Chris was the only player I saw in the clubhouse after Labor Day’s contest was cancelled, and it was the first time all year I was the last one on the bus. The only reason he beat me to it was because I had to run back upstairs and pack the radio equipment up. The rest of the players and coaches had already loaded their belongings onto the bus, as ready as they’d ever be to take an eight-hour bus ride. The trip home was a necessary evil. The players may not have wanted to been stuck in a moving box for a third of a day, but they didn’t want to stay north of the border any longer.

The look on CC’s face was a mixture of sleepy, worn-out and disappointed as he uttered, “Yup,” to my query about the game getting banged. Usually somebody gave me a heads up about those kinds of things, but I can understand how it slipped through the cracks that time.

Les Capitales went on to win their third straight CanAm League Championship, making easy work of the Rox ( a three-game sweep) before disposing of the New Jersey Jackals in four games for the trophy. Things ended well in Quebec, but not so much for its visitors, especially the club that left town before its last regular season game was supposed to be over.

Unlike any of the previous season-ending calls I’ve had, there wasn’t much of a conclusion this year. Sure, I had the post-game wrap-up after Sunday night’s game was called, but I had no idea until about 18 hours later that a strikeout ending the top of the fifth of game 92 would be it for the summer. It wasn’t close to the way any team wants to end a season, even if the playoffs aren’t an option. Instead of being one of the few teams that gets to end its year with a win, the Tornadoes concluded theirs with an early ride home to the off-season, whether they wanted it or not.

P.S. Although it didn’t seem like any consolation to him, Colabello was applauded by the whole bus a few minutes into the ride home after former Major Leaguer (and Tornadoes infielder) Abraham Nunez named him “The Best Hitter in the History of the CanAm League.”

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